This is a heartbreaking, tragic reminder to be vigilant and prudent when parking your car in the garage and of the critical need to have CO detectors in your home.

GJN
House where couple was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 in Côte-St-Luc. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Woman probably forgot to turn her car’s ignition off after parking it in the garage

FRÉDÉRIC TOMESCO  Montreal Gazette: December 9, 2019

A Côte-St-Luc couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning last winter when the wife probably forgot to turn her car’s ignition off after parking it in the garage, a coroner has concluded.

Roger Banon and Simone Elkeslassy were found dead by one of their sons Feb. 6 after uncharacteristically failing to answer phone calls during the day. Firefighters called to the scene noted the presence of carbon monoxide inside the garage and the house.

The couple lived in a single-family residence, with their bedroom located directly above the garage. A carbon monoxide detector was installed in the basement and was in service, the report said.

Banon, 88, had Parkinson’s disease. He had the constant help and support of his 84-year-old wife and other family members, according to the coroner’s report, which was released Monday. Husband and wife — both wearing pyjamas — were found lying on the floor of the guest room.

“It appears that Mr. Banon’s spouse probably had a moment of distraction when returning from the grocery store on Feb. 5 and forgot to shut down the engine of her car,” coroner Julie-Kim Godin concluded in her report dated Sept. 25, ruling out suicide.

Having just returned from a trip, Elkeslassy “had to resume her activities and her routine,” Godin wrote. “She had several tasks to perform and needed to take care of her partner. She probably had a lot of concerns on her mind, which contributed to this moment of distraction.”

Montreal police investigators found Elkeslassy’s car parked in the garage. While the garage door leading onto the driveway was closed, investigators were unable to establish whether the inside door leading to the house was open or closed.

The car key was in the ignition and it was switched on, the coroner’s report said. The fuel gauge indicated that the tank was empty and the hood was lukewarm.

“This allows us to conclude that the engine continued to run, probably for several hours, producing significant carbon monoxide emissions in the house,” Godin wrote.

Elkeslassy was an “active, autonomous woman who was very involved in the community,” Godin also wrote. She was seeing a doctor regularly, and a recent appointment had not resulted in any problems being identified. Elkeslassy “loved life and was very resilient,” the report cited her doctor as saying. She had never expressed suicidal ideas, the report said.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a recurring problem in Quebec.

On Friday, a Laval woman was found dead in a house after being poisoned by the toxic gas, police said. Two other people were taken to a hospital for the same reason. Results of the investigation may be announced Tuesday, a Laval police spokesperson said Monday.

Carbon monoxide is a clear, odourless and tasteless gas that can make humans sick and can lead to death. The gas is created when fuels such as oil, coal, wood, gasoline, propane and natural gas are burned.

Carbon monoxide doesn’t irritate the eyes or respiratory tract. But when a person inhales it, the gas enters their blood and interferes with oxygen intake, damaging tissue, according to Quebec’s health department. The effects can vary depending on the quantity of the gas in the air and the length of exposure. Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to a coma and death within minutes.

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